Tennessee is receiving nearly $14 million in federal funds to help fight the opioid epidemic.
The money comes in the first of two rounds of funding to be delivered as part of the 21st Century Cures Act signed by President Obama last December. The act pledged $1 billion in grants to states to help fight the opioid epidemic.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price announced the first round distributions at the National Drug Summit in Atlanta this week. This first round totals $485 million to be distributed among all 50 states, the District of Columbia and six U.S. territories.
“Last year, Leader McConnell called 21st Century Cures ‘the most important legislation of the year,’ and today’s announcement – nearly $14 million to help fight Tennessee’s ongoing opioid epidemic – is just one example of the real help this bill is delivering to Tennessee families,” Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander said in a statement. “Opioid abuse or overdose kills more Tennesseans every year than gunshots or car wrecks, and this funding will send a substantial boost to those on the front lines of a battle that is being waged state by state, county by county, doctor’s office by doctor’s office.”
The money will cover overdose-reversing drugs and treatment centers, among other things.
Local experts say the money is helpful, but worry there's not enough focus on prevention.
"It's much cheaper to prevent a problem before it begins than clean up the mess after the problem has already occurred," said Karen Pershing, director of Knoxville's Metro Drug Coalition, who is in Atlanta for the summit.
Pershing said every dollar spent on prevention saves $64 in health care, incarceration and lost productivity.